Popcorn success is an art

Entrepreneurs are risk takers. They often set out to do things that others may not have the courage to do. Ten years ago, Cravings Gourmet Popcorn Owner, Chad Jordan, took a great risk when he got into the popcorn business, and it has paid off. I recently sat down with Jordan, the 2012 Emerging Entrepreneur Award winner, to discuss his journey from the local farmers market to becoming mid-Michigan’s source for premium gourmet popcorn.

What is it about popcorn that inspired you?

I got into the business when I lost my job in 2004. I lost my job on a Friday and I started writing a business plan on a Monday. Over the weekend, we went to Frankenmuth and I went to this popcorn shop and I was so inspired. I hated the way that it felt when I walked into my office and they said we are having a meeting at noon, and then told me don’t have a job at like 12:05. I started writing my business plan in 2004 and I opened in 2007, so I had a massive business plan when I first started. But I got all my ducks in a row. I went to the Michigan Small Business Development Center; and the Internet is fantastic, so many resources there that show you how to make a business plan, what to look out for, and you can investigate other popcorn shops.

When I was at the Lansing City Market, there was a couple there, a husband and wife team, that made kettle corn and cheese corn. I became friends with them. They knew I wanted to get into the business. So, when they retired, they moved to Georgia and sold me all their stuff for $5,000. If they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here today. Also, I had to have the support of my wife. She’s been there every step of the way. More than anything she encourages me to be the best that I can be.

What are your goals for your business?

I see this as a business that could be franchised. I’m working every day to get to that point. We see a lot of businesses on a daily basis; when we see how big they are, we don’t realize the work it took to get from store one to a franchise. I’m still at point A but I’m trying to get it to multiply.

Last April we opened a new production facility on the south side of town. We make popcorn five days a week. We make the hot stuff, the higher volume type of orders, like all the caramel corn and the premium signature gold, out of our production facility. Then we also supplement what we sell at Quality Dairy, and through our fundraiser program, and our new account at the airport. We are using it to try to build a more wholesale type business. We would love to be able to help other popcorn shops that want to get into the business but don’t have the equipment, we could wholesale that for them.

What do you think sets your business apart from your competitors?

You can go to 100 popcorn shops and 99 of them are going to be the same. Because within the industry anyone can make popcorn and anyone can buy pre-made ingredients or kits, that’s what most of the industry does, it’s all the same stuff. What makes us different is that we create our own recipes to create the flavors that we have. So, whereas a popcorn joint might have nacho flavored popcorn, they are going to buy a kit that’s nacho flavor. We’re going to buy garlic, onion, sea salt, and so on; until we have the proper mixture to call it nacho. That’s the difference. 

Tell me a little about your entrepreneurial journey.

Entrepreneurship makes you stronger or it makes you quit. If you can handle it, it gets real deep sometimes. As a good friend told me, ‘you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ It’s not always easy, but it’s important to ride out the easy times with the hard times. Don’t celebrate your wins too hard and don’t dwell on your losses too hard. You’re going to have winning days and you’re going to have losing days. Just take them. 

As for myself, it’s made me a stronger person, in the sense that I’ve learned how to dig deeper in knowing what my strengths and weaknesses are and my own abilities. A perfect example is, I didn’t have investors in this business, or inherited money. If I wanted to get something designed, I had to learn how to do that. Learning how to make the flavors, for example. If you try, you are going to fail, but if you try and learn from your errors, eventually you’ll catch on; then you can develop a system for how you make or do whatever you are trying to do. I can come up with stuff in the first or second try now, it’s just crazy.

How was winning the Emerging Entrepreneur award in 2012 significant for you?

The biggest thing that winning the award did was validate my idea. Because you know I started this business at the Lansing City Market and then moved into Old Town. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good idea. But winning validated that other people thought it was. 

One of the cool things that happened after I won is that I instantly became recognized as an expert. Everybody thinks you are such a great business person. I think I get incrementally better as time goes on, but I wouldn’t say that I’m a great business person. I don’t think I do anything that anyone else couldn’t do. I think that most people have it in them. If they really thought about it, they could run their own business, whether it’s selling purses, making popcorn, running a restaurant or selling jewelry, whatever it may be. I was just having a conversation in the office today, they asked, ‘why don’t you watch more TV?’ I said that every minute I’m watching the Kardashians I’m helping them make millions of dollars. Every minute I’m watching a YouTube instructional video on how to do something in my business, it goes toward me making money. What am I going to do, help them or help myself? It’s a no brainer. 

How would you define success?

I define success by the time I have to be able to spend with my family. Being in business gives me the opportunity to do those sorts of things. If I were at a 9 to 5 behind the desk, I wouldn’t be able to see my son’s football practices or hire my son to be in the business and be with him all the time. Or, I wouldn’t be able to respond when my wife calls when she says the dryer broke. I have more flexibility, I work more hours than the typical 9 to 5’er, but when I need to leave, I leave. I went to every one of my son’s track meets, that’s priceless.



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